Mindfulness is that invitation to not believe everything that we think. Because some of our thoughts lead to suffering. In fact, a lot of our thoughts lead to suffering. That’s what I was talking about earlier with this past and future, the way that our mind goes back and forth and stress is created. We have another option. We can not get on that train. We can stay on the platform. I hope that’s helpful, thinking about how to work with our thoughts. In the back.
SPEAKER: I like your cloud one as well. Because I go to the UCLA –
DIANA: Oh great. The Hammer Museum? Shall I share it with everybody? Okay. She said there’s another analogy that I use. We can imagine that our minds are like the sky. They’re wide open and spacious and vast, and all of our thoughts are just like little clouds floating by. The clouds are just going. Some of them are rushing past, some of them are sticking around for awhile; but the clouds don’t disrupt the mind. They just cover it up. They don’t disrupt our awareness. They cover it up temporarily. Maybe we’ll do a little meditation before we end where I’ll bring that in, because it’s a helpful reminder. Yes?
SPEAKER: What’s the relationship between secular mindfulness meditation and let’s say Buddhist meditation, where there’s progressions in insight and the goal of enlightenment? Do you just meditate in secular meditation, there’s no particular goal or no particular progression?
DIANA: I think that the way mindfulness is brought out in the culture these days, it’s a lot to address levels of stress that people are currently facing. Much of what we’re doing is just dealing with this bottom line, how do we be less stressed out, more happiness, more ease, more wellbeing. As people do that, they gain a different relationship to how they live in the world. Probably that I would say is one of the main goals in mindfulness teaching.
What I’ve experienced with students who go more deeply into it is they’re having wonderful meditative experiences and understanding and insight, but that map, if they’re interested in those kind of maps, I would steer them more towards traditional maps than what’s happening in what we’re doing. Yes?
SPEAKER: A wonderful quotation keeps coming to my mind, and I’m wondering whether there is an analogy between what you’re saying and a quotation by Mark Twain, who said “I’ve been through a lot of problems in my life, most of which never occurred.” (laughter) I feel like perhaps there’s some connection.
DIANA: Absolutely. Did everyone hear that in the back? She said there’s a famous quote by Mark Twain, “I’ve been through lots of difficult experiences in my life, most of which have never happened.” It’s a very famous quote, and it’s exactly what happens with our minds. We create tremendous suffering in our minds, and it may have no basis in reality.
There’s an incredible statistic – I’m hoping I get the statistic right. It may be a little off, but I think it is 80% of what we worry about never comes true. 80%. Think of all the worrying you do, all the things you suffer about, and it never comes true. The second part of that statistic is, of the 20% of the things that come true, something like 85% of people report that they handle it better than they ever imagined they would. You get the point. Worry is a huge issue for so many of us, and it causes all this suffering, just like Mark Twain was pointing to. There’s other ways to approach life. Yes?
SPEAKER: Can you talk more about, other than meditation, how do you use some of those techniques of bringing yourself to the present in your everyday life?
DIANA: Yes. I’m so glad you asked, because that’s where I was heading. She was asking how do we bring mindfulness into our daily life, not just by meditating. We did the meditative piece, and now I’m going to teach you some – and remember, I said mindfulness is a meditative technique. If you’re interested in continuing on with mindfulness meditation, I recommend that you try practicing it in your daily life. For instance, if you go to our website, there’s meditations you can download, and you can just practice at home for 5 minutes, 10 minutes, 15 minutes. There’s lots of ways to continue, and I’ll talk about resources at the end.
SPEAKER: Which website?
DIANA: Our website is the Marc website. I’ll give you that resource at the end. There’s also brochures out there, flyers, that give you that information.
I also said mindfulness is a quality of attention we can bring to any moment. That means you can apply mindfulness – I can apply mindfulness right in this second. Right in this second, I’m noticing myself standing here. I’m feeling my feet on the floor. I’m having an awareness that I’m holding the microphone. I’m being mindful. I’m not meditating. Am I meditating? Not really. I’m applying a quality of attention. What this does is it can absolutely shift my experience from being caught in the stress and the worry into being more present; relaxed, at ease, joyful, happy, etc.
I want to teach you a little practice – this actually is on the thing, if you want to pull it up as I’m talking. This is a practice of being more mindful in the midst of life, and the practice is called STOP. And it stands for – oh, now we get the sound.
Let’s take a mindful breath as we listen to the sound. Let’s listen mindfully, ready? We can listen to the sound, just like we did earlier. Why not? Great. Let me get this up for you then. I think I’ll just leave it up for now. I don’t want to make you more stressed. I don’t want you to leave here feeling more stressed because the thing keeps going up and down. It’d be bad if you left the mindfulness meditation workshop more stressed. (laughter)
This exercise that is something that you can take home with you that’s tremendously helpful for bringing mindfulness in daily life, and it’s called STOP. It stands for Stop, Take a breath, Observe, and Proceed. What that means is you’re in the midst of your daily life and you have this sense that it would be good to be mindful, or maybe you’re about to have a stressful meeting with someone. Stress is appearing in your life. Or you just want to remember to be mindful.
STOP can come to mind. Stop just means stop; it doesn’t mean freeze. You don’t have to freeze. It means stop the flow of mental activity. Take a breath – you can do that. And then Observe. This is the part I have to teach you, so you get that. I’ll show you in a moment. And then Proceed – go back into life.
The whole thing will probably take about six seconds, but first I’m going to teach it to you. The meditation itself is going to take a little bit longer so you get the picture. Let’s close our eyes, and I’m going to show you the different things that you can observe. And observe doesn’t mean look; observe means observe internally, and feel and sense, in the way that we’ve been doing it. It’s really about how to be mindful.
Begin by noticing your body present on the chair. Notice anything that’s obvious to you about your body, any body sensations. You might notice weight or movement or pressure or vibration. There might be itchiness; there might be warmth or coolness. Anything that’s happening in your body, you can observe. You might even observe your breath.
Now observe if there’s any emotion here right now, and there may or may not be. Maybe you’re feeling sad or a little worried or irritated or hopeful or joyful. Notice if something is present.
Notice if you’re thinking anything in particular. Sometimes when you ask someone to notice what they’re thinking, it’s hard to do. But just notice if there’s any thoughts coming across your mind a little bit.
Now notice your mood, or how you’re feeling any kind of state of body or mind, like you’re sleepy or you’re restless or you’re bored or you’re at peace. Notice.
Now observe sounds. Listen to the sounds in the room, like we did earlier.
Finally, open your eyes and notice whatever there is to see. See if you can observe visually with mindfulness.
Okay. We’re done with the meditation, the first part of the meditation. Let me just ask you, was it possible to notice those different categories of your experience? Was it possible to notice the different aspects of your experience? Yeah? Raise your hand if you noticed body sensations. That’s pretty easy, right? How about emotions – anybody have emotion coming up? How about thoughts? Could you notice your thinking? Yeah, you guys were doing great. Wow. Sounds? Pretty easy. Visually – could you observe mindfully? Some of you. It’s not really so clear what that is. It’s just kind of taking in the experience. Oh, and I forgot, how about being mindful of your mental state, your mood? Could you notice that? Okay.
Those are all sorts of things that we can be mindful of. But let’s say you only have three seconds to be mindful, and you’re going to stop, you’re going to take a breath, and then when you observe, you’re going to observe just one thing. And you only have three seconds, four seconds, whatever amount – because we’re busy people, remember? We’re all really busy. So let’s see if we can practice this when we only have a few seconds. When I ask you to observe, you’ll observe anything. You might observe a body sensation, an emotion, a thought, a sound, etc.